MLS can rightfully walk tall after D.C. United's capture of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, yet it should not tout this success as a sign of league-wide strength.
When pressed by foes superior to those it faces in league play, United can quicken the pace, toughen up on defense and play a smarter, faster, shrewder game. So can the L.A. Galaxy.
But they are the exceptions, and to assume that a staple diet of MLS-only play will forge dozens of players capable of competing internationally is a fallacy.
MLS sorely needs regular competition with good foreign club teams. The cancellation of the Copa Merconorte tournament should accelerate the process -- at both the league and club level -- of scheduling more foreign opponents.
What's to be gained? Better players, honed by facing experienced professionals playing different styles.
Of course, bringing Necaxa into town in late May might result in a meaningless scrimmage, but when the team came to the U.S. in late July as part of its preseason training, it played impressively enough to beat two USISL teams handily.
Necaxa didn't want tough opposition in its preseason phase, but Mexican teams have been crossing the border for three decades to play midweek exhibitions in U.S. cities. Could they -- or a top Argentine, Brazilian or Colombian club team -- be lured with a pot of cash awaiting the winner?
MLS head coaches are reluctant to risk their best players in friendlies, yet what is accomplished when Dallas sends out a team of mostly reserves and is thrashed 5-0 by Guadalajara? The league looks bad, and the players are overwhelmed.
The Merconorte Cup was organized by an Argentine company. Surely the marketing moguls at MLS, which is blessed with a bilingual commissioner, can fare better in scheduling their own games.
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